Nonfiction: Child Abuse, MGM Musicals, Country Music, Galantière, Harry Hayward, Parker Posey | Xpress Reviews

An angry and essential memoir; for anyone seeking to revive the psychological flexibility of childhood; this carefully researched book is recommended; this title proves that country music is multifaceted; Lurie succeeds in constructing a thorough and well-rounded portrait; for fans of the author’s podcast; recommended for true crime fans and history buffs; a great introduction to Posey's life and career; the vital roles women have played in the U.S. literary sphere
Week ending July 13, 2018 Caveney, Graham. The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness. S. & S. Jul. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9781501165962. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501165979. MEMOIR Perhaps the most remarkable quality of this debut memoir by Caveney, author of monographs on Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, is the way in which he captures, through his prose, the feelings and experiences of a victim of sexual abuse. Here are the fragmentary memories, the disconnect from one’s own body, the confusion, and the self-blame. The book starts out simply enough as a meditation on growing up bookish in working-class northern England. At the age of 14, Caveney enters a private Catholic school where he is taken under the wing of the headmaster. It quickly becomes clear what the headmaster’s intentions toward Caveney are, and the inevitability of the abuse that follows is sickening to absorb. Verdict An angry and essential memoir about a topic not often discussed publicly: male victims of sexual abuse. Caveney also has a lot to say about the recuperative power of books and music.—Derek Sanderson, Mount Saint Mary Coll. Lib., Newburgh, NY DeBenedet, Anthony T. Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World. Santa Monica. May 2018. 261p. notes. ISBN 9781595800855. pap. $16.95. SELF-HELP In his current work, DeBenedet (coauthor, The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It) encourages readers to reintroduce playfulness into their personalities to reduce the negative effect that “the intensity of adulthood” has on living a life of quality. After researching 40 behavioral qualities associated with playfulness, the author selected the five most highly valued—imagination, sociability, humor, spontaneity, and wonder—to serve as the foundation for his theory of playful intelligence, defined as an extension of the “intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence” skills needed to navigate life without relinquishing joy. Each of the characteristics is discussed throughout, providing ways to awaken the dormant resiliency traits of youth. Verdict A timely reminder for anyone who feels overwhelmed by daily “adulting” stressors and seeks to revive the psychological flexibility of childhood.—Angela Dixon, Georgia State Univ. Lib., Clarkston Dick, Bernard F. That Was Entertainment: The Golden Age of the MGM Musical. Univ. Pr. of Mississippi. Jun. 2018. 312p. illus. filmog. notes. index. ISBN 9781496817334. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781496817341. FILM In its heyday, MGM, the “Tiffany of studios,” nurtured musical talent, ranging from a swimming star (Esther Williams) to opera performers (Mario Lanza), plus hoofers, tap dancers (Ann Miller, Eleanor Powell), and graceful ballerinas (Cyd Charisse). Songwriter Arthur Freed was tapped to form a unit that made over 40 musicals, at least a dozen of which are now ranked as classics. In this brisk narrative, Dick (The Screen Was Red) reviews MGM musicals from the beginning of the sound era to the late 1950s, describing hits, misses, and “touchstone moments” such as Singin’ in the Rain. This “greatness and variety” is classified by genres: musical movies like The Wizard of Oz and Doris Day’s Love Me or Leave Me; musical biographies (noted for inaccuracies); Broadway transplants; films about the theater (The Band Wagon); and all-star musical revues, popular during World War II. Musicals were a perfect vehicle for post-Code family values, and Freed’s “have great talent, then leave them alone” formula worked for more than 25 years. Changing musical tastes in the Fifties, plus a management less supportive of the format, doomed Freed’s group and, ultimately, the studio itself. Verdict The book revives memories of such great films as Meet Me in St. Louis and Gigi. Though lacking insight from Hollywood’s dwindling number of musical stars, this carefully researched book is recommended.—Stephen Rees, formerly with Levittown Lib., PA Harris, Kate. Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road. Dey Street: HarperCollins. Aug. 2018. 320p. bibliog. ISBN 9780062839343. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062839312. TRAV Canadian nature writer Harris had always dreamed of being an explorer like Marco Polo, or going to Mars, or both. Prior to attending graduate school at Oxford, she convinced her childhood friend Mel to bike part of the Silk Road with Harris for four months near the Tibetan Plateau. Through Oxford, then MIT, love found and lost, Harris hungered for the road, longing to bike the remainder. She quits her MIT PhD program, convinces Mel, again, to join her, and they continue their trek. During their lengthy (4,350-mile) journey, they face everything from icy puddles, lost bicycle parts, difficulties with visas, guard rails, countless instant noodle meals, and frequent stays with total strangers. Unfortunately, what could have been a deep exploration of cultures and people dissolves into an impersonal, distant view of a long expedition. Oddly disjointed history lessons are mixed in, at times with little transition or context for the jump in or out of the past. For a travel writer, Harris seemingly has little interest in the people or places she experienced along the way. Verdict For fans of Harris’s travel articles or cycling journey sagas.—Katie Lawrence, Grand Rapids, MI The Honky Tonk on the Left: Progressive Thought in Country Music. Univ. of Massachusetts. May 2018. 312p. ed. by Mark Allan Jackson. index. ISBN 9781625343376. $90; pap. ISBN 9781625343383. $32.95. MUSIC Professor and author Jackson (Prophet Singer: The Voice and Vision of Woody Guthrie) here edits 12 essays from various progressive academic voices, examining country music as more complicated and, as the title suggests, more liberal than may appear. Contributors discuss everything from artists’ widespread support of FDR’s New Deal and leftist politics in the 1930s and 1940s to Johnny Cash’s 1960s Native American concept album to more modern artists, including Garth Brooks, the Dixie Chicks, and others. Ethnomusicologist Stephanie Shonekan discusses Brooks’s envelope-pushing, progressive provocations in songs such as “We Shall Be Free.” Race is explored by blues scholar Stephen A. King and marketing instructor P. Renee Foster; cultural historian Nadine Hubbs tackles homophobia and country music throughout the Seventies; and alternative country music is considered in illuminating fashion by musicologist Travis D. Stimeling. Verdict Though perhaps not for the casual reader, as is Chris Willman’s Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music, this title proves that country music is multifaceted and, though conservatives may often lay claim to the genre, reflects the political spectrum from end to end. Jackson and his essayists succeed and then some.—Joel Shoemaker, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora Lurie, Mark I. Galantière: The Lost Generation’s Forgotten Man. Overlook. Apr. 2018. 412p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780999100226. $34; pap. ISBN 9780999100202. $22. LIT Born in Chicago but raised in France, Lewis Galantière (1895–1977) is perhaps best known for his role in Paris literary circles during the 1920s, specifically his friendships with Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. This biography by debut author Lurie, Galantière’s first cousin once removed, chronicles its subject’s life beyond his Lost Generation connections, particularly his notable career as a translator of works by Jean Cocteau, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Jean Anouilh, among others. He also wrote plays, including collaborations with film director John Housman. A staunch defender of free speech, he later served as director of the American Civil Liberties Union and PEN America. But it is Galantière’s fascinating achievements outside of literature that Lurie highlights, documenting his important role in U.S.-French relations during and after World War II and esteemed positions in the U.S. Army Libraries, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the French Branch of Office of War Information, and Radio Free Europe, which helped to shape America’s economic and foreign policy in postwar Europe. Verdict Drawing heavily on Galantière’s papers at Columbia University, Lurie succeeds in constructing a thorough and well-rounded portrait that should earn its subject wider recognition—especially among readers interested in American history and diplomacy.—William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY Mahnke, Aaron. The World of Lore: Wicked Mortals. Del Rey: Ballantine. (World of Lore). May 2018. 352p. bibliog. ISBN 9781524797997. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9781524798000. TRUE CRIME Mahnke, creator of the podcast Lore and the Amazon television series of the same name, presents a new series in a similar vein exploring with gleeful delight macabre true stories and disturbing urban legends. From Ireland to Romania to the United States, Mahnke digs up tale after tale of people giving in to their worst fears and darkest impulses. The details and settings are vividly described; readers can almost smell the campfire and hear the crickets. Be warned: these pieces are not for the faint of heart. There’s the story of a mother who cooks a “demon” out of her child and a nurse who joyfully watches life fade from the elderly patient she poisoned. This work is the reading equivalent of watching a scary movie while covering your face and peeking through your fingers. Verdict For fans of the author’s podcast, scary stories, or historical accounts, such as Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.—Ryan Claringbole, Wisconsin Dept. of Pub. Instruction, Madison Peters, Shawn Francis. The Infamous Harry Hayward: A True Account of Murder and Mesmerism in Gilded Age Minneapolis. Univ. of Minnesota. Apr. 2018. 280p. photos. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781517903756. pap. $18.95; ebk. ISBN 9781452957111. CRIME Peters (integrated liberal studies, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison; The Yoder Case; The Catonsville Nine) presents an exciting and detailed retelling of a bizarre late 19th-century murder case involving a charming con man, a thrifty dressmaker, and a medium. Harry Hayward, described in news accounts as “a rake,” was convicted and hanged for the murder of Catherine (Kittie) Ging, whom he’d convinced to loan him money with the help of a phony fortune-teller. The plot is twisty and complicated: Hayward lost money in the gambling dens of Minneapolis; borrowed large sums from successful dressmaker Ging; offered her counterfeit funds in return, which he pressured her to use to buy life insurance; and then murdered her with the help of companions whom he’d threatened. Hayward confessed to being a serial killer, though his truthfulness on any subject is debatable. Verdict Recommended for true crime fans, history buffs, and those intrigued by Minneapolis history.—Amelia Osterud, Milwaukee P.L. Posey, Parker. You’re on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir. Blue Rider. Jul. 2018. 336p. illus. ISBN 9780735218192. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780735218215. FILM/MEMOIR Quirky and refreshing, this memoir by actress Posey is equivalent to sitting next to her on an airplane, sharing an in-depth, intimate conversation. From personal anecdotes about her relationships with her family to talking about the business, she charms and regales with stories of her life so far. The first part of the book covers Posey’s childhood in Mississippi and Louisiana and her early years as an actor. Photos are displayed throughout in a scrapbook style, with family recipes interspersed as well. Several chapters include her experiences with other performers and directors and how she came to be one of the most important indie actors in the 1990s and beyond. Much of the narrative moves from her most current experiences to other points in her career. Verdict For readers unfamiliar with Posey’s work, this often humorous memoir is a great introduction to her life and career. Highly recommended for movie lovers. [See Prepub Alert, 1/22/18.]—Holly Skir, Broward Cty. Lib., FL Women in the Literary Landscape: A Centennial Publication of the Women’s National Book Association. C&R. Mar. 2018. 289p. ed. by Rosalind Reisner & others. photos. index. ISBN 9781936196821. $20. LIT To celebrate its centennial, the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) has released a fascinating work, compiled by a bevy of editors led by librarian Reisner, that delivers the history of not only the organization but also of women’s roles in literature, publishing, librarianship, and bookselling, past and present, as well as stories from the WNBA archives. In addition, we learn about the group’s various programs supporting literacy, including its efforts as a United Nations NGO member. Minibiographies set off from the text highlight the lives and contributions of figures such as former slave and author Harriet Jacobs; Amy Loveman, founding editor of the Saturday Review of Literature; and Virginia Steele, who created the “Freedom Libraries.” Appendixes outline past WNBA presidents and literary award winners. Verdict This concise, whirlwind history reveals the vital roles women have played in the U.S. literary sphere since our nation’s founding. Readers will be left wanting more details, but this comprehensive survey is sure to satisfy anyone curious about women in literary fields.—Stefanie Hollmichel, Univ. of St. Thomas Law Lib., Minneapolis

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